The Frontstretch: Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: Bud Shootout by Matt McLaughlin -- Monday February 9, 2009

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Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: Bud Shootout

Matt McLaughlin · Monday February 9, 2009

 

The Key Moment: Kevin Harvick assumed the lead milliseconds before the caution flag flew, signaling the end of the race.

In a Nutshell: With the convoluted new format and dearth of attendance and excitement Saturday night, is it time to just call this Shootout silliness off?

Dramatic Moment: Waiting to see who was going to hit Greg Biffle next.

What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week

The folks at Daytona said they were lowering ticket prices to put fans in the seats in this tough economy. Apparently, they didn’t lower them enough. The crowd Saturday night would have been shameful at a Foghat reunion concert on some college campus.

I’m a little confused as to the analogies between Harvick’s win in the 2007 Daytona 500 and his win Saturday night. In 2007, the race was allowed to finish under the green flag, even as a massive wreck took place behind the leaders and cars were upside down and on fire. NASCAR defended their held flag that evening as saying on the last lap, anything goes. Well, Saturday night a far less severe wreck allowed Harvick to win under caution. So, which call will be made next Sunday? Damned if I know. I just work here.

This year, more then ever fans really need a program to keep the players straight. It sure is weird to see some driver other than Tony Stewart in the No. 20 car (albeit briefly) and Stewart at the wheel of the No. 14 car.

The tires at Daytona seemed to last only seven laps before giving up. That could make for a long race next week.

They’ve screwed the Shootout concept truly and well, haven’t they? In its original form, the race was limited to drivers who had won poles the previous season. It was a 20-lap sprint race, a little taste of things to come for winter weary fans — sort of like that sip of wine the waiter gives you for approval before filling your glass.

Entry to this year’s concept is such a screwed up process that it doesn’t bear explanation as much as it does ridicule and contempt. Let’s suffice it to say while A.J. Allmendinger, Joey Logano, Robby Gordon, and David Stremme made the field, Ryan Newman did not. Newman, most of you remember, is the man who won last year’s Daytona 500 and remains one of the sport’s best qualifiers. Yes, NASCAR has long since strayed from the purity of the original Shootout concept with rules like allowing any previous Shootout winner into the field (to make sure Dale Earnhardt, Sr. it — Earnhardt was not a great qualifier most seasons) but this year’s concept would make Dr. Seuss blush if it weren’t for the fact he’s dead as a doornail. About the only way to screw things up any further is to offer teams a chance to make next year’s Shootout by finding scratch and win cards in specially marked boxes of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes.

Once again this offseason, Brian France indicated that he doesn’t look at his position as chief of NASCAR as a lifetime position like his grandfather and father did. He swears he’ll leave the sport… eventually. So, I guess all those long-term fans who have left the sport will return to NASCAR racing… eventually. If Gil Grissom were to study the format for this year’s Shootout in the crime lab, he’d doubtless find Brian’s DNA all over it. Nobody else with the power to make things happen in complete abeyance of common sense could have dreamed up such a farcical concept. A recent poll indicated that only 33 percent of fans are pleased with how Brian France is doing his job. Well, the last person of note to suffer such low popularity numbers recently returned to Crawford, Texas to join the 7.6 percent of unemployed Americans the recession he created has borne.

Meanwhile, the top 35 rule and its consequences have certainly come to roost in the current economy. Teams need to have a spot in the top 35 in points to be guaranteed a spot in this season’s first five races. So, they’re wheeling and dealing like Monte Hall to buy those positions towards the bottom rungs of the ladder, using points earned by drivers who no longer have rides and teams that won’t run entries this season to make this year’s races. Yeah, I think I just saw the White Rabbit of Lewis Carroll and Jefferson Airplane fame hopping across the infield at Daytona studying his pocket watch. Alice, babe, I love ya, but this tea is making me dizzy and the hookah-smoking caterpillars (who look suspiciously like Michael Phelps) are scaring me. Can I trade in this tea on a cold bottle of Corona and a cup of Folgers? Feed ‘jur Ed!

An old saying states that absence makes the heart grow fonder. Well, it doesn’t seem to be working with this Car of Sorrow a year after its first full season of competition. I still look at these misshapen troglodytes and feel like I’m biting into a lemon with dimes jammed in between my upper and lower front teeth. Since the government seems intent on spending tens of billions of dollars to fix woeful situations, perhaps a stimulus package could be devised to pay off NASCAR team owners to trash their fleets of CoTs and bring back something that more closely resembles a proper race car rather than a kiddie ride at Disney World on steroids.

Kyle Busch seems ready to start off 2009 with his first foot-in-mouth moment, resuming where he left off last year to continue generating the sort of loathing from the fans even his brother Kurt could never match on his best day. Asked about the effects of the economy on the sport, young Mr. Busch thoughtfully opined, “I don’t even know how bad the economy is; I don’t pay attention to it. From what I hear, it’s bad and it’s in the tank. I’m still fortunate enough to be in the sport and have a job with Joe Gibbs and get paid well enough that I can still live the same I was living last year.” Let them eat cake, sayeth Kyle Antoinette, even while admitting for some working folk the last year might have been a little “sucky.” What’s the difference for them this year? When some fans throw empty beer cans at Kyle after a race, others will doubtless be diving over the fence to gather them up in order to collect the five cent deposit on each.

One of the unintended dividends of the testing suspension policy this year in the Cup Series is to give the teams that are in the Shootout a decided advantage for next week’s big show.

Wow, didn’t see that one coming! What’s the real story behind the demise of the Daly Planet, Mike Daly’s daily blog on the state of NASCAR TV coverage? With Mike Mulhern, formerly of the Winston Salem Journal (and now found at www.MikeMulhern.net) also MIA this season, folks who aren’t willing to partake of Brian France’s Kool-Aid in the media are now sleeping with their front porch lights on.

Wow, there are 57 entries (OK, 56 with James Hylton having thrown in the towel) for this year’s Daytona 500, a pretty considerable number all things considered. That points out one irrefutable fact. Even in a tough economy, Kenny Wallace won over a quarter million dollars for finishing dead last in last year’s Daytona 500. That’s a pretty good chunk of change for any team that sneaks into the show. My guess is this year we’ll hear a lot less about the “Go or Go-Homers” and a lot more about the “Start and Parkers.”

3M must have mixed feelings about how their driver did on Saturday night. On the one hand, Greg Biffle finished 17th out of 28 cars. But all of those wrecks, including this one to set up overtime, sure got them quite a bit of airtime.

The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune

Greg Biffle hit everything but the Powerball lottery Saturday night.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is a perpetual threat to win at Daytona, and led some laps only to fall back into the clutches of the least common denominators late. He ended up with a thoroughly trashed race car as result.

Pundits want you to believe in Joey Lagano as “Sliced Bread” — as in “the best thing since…” But maybe we ought to ought to call him Bread Crumbs after a crummy ride at Daytona Saturday night. Decent finishes are apparently not available in the checkout line at the Home Depot, even if you have 300,000 fans ready to drink the Kool-Aid.

The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune

Harvick didn’t show a lot of strength for most of the event, but was up front when it mattered.

A lot of folks, this writer included, questioned Tony Stewart’s sanity in leaving Joe Gibbs Racing to throw in his lot with a team that is, to be kind, a perpetual underachiever. A third place result in the Shootout was a pretty fair result for the newly reconfigured outfit.

Second place had to be disappointing for Jamie McMurray, who seemed to have the race in the bag as the final lap began; but with an average finish of 20th last year, it was a pretty decent way to kick off the season for the victim-designate of Jack Roush’s need to cut back to four teams in 2010.

Jeff Gordon threaded his way through several wrecks, sometimes at a walking pace, en route to a fourth place finish. I guess Ella is sleeping through the night now.

Worth Noting

  • Only 13 of 28 cars in the Shootout were undamaged enough to finish on the lead lap.
  • Only two drivers, Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart, posted top five finishes in the 2008 and 2009 Bud Shootouts. Kasey Kahne was the only other driver to post top 10 results in both races.
  • Stewart has finished in the top 5 in the Shootout every season since 2005, a pretty fair piece of work given the usual carnage.

What’s the Points?

This race is well and truly pointless, now more than ever.

Overall Rating (On a scale of one to six beer cans, with one being a stinker and a six pack an instant classic) We’ll give this one three cans, only because it’s good to hear those un-muffled V8s driven in anger again after a long winter’s nap.

Next Up: The points paying portion of the season kicks off next Sunday with the annual plate track madness of the Daytona 500. Ladies and gentlemen, let the carnage begin.

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Douglas
02/09/2009 07:28 AM
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Het Matt, very nice summation. Yep, 2009, and things are still screwed up in NA$CRAP!

I am so happy, so very happy! Did not watch a single lap of anything except the ARCA fiasco, and not much of that, got tired of yellow flags!

Can you imagine ANYONE paying NA$CRAP ticket prices to see the CoT “race”?

Janice
02/09/2009 08:29 AM
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Welcome back!

I caught part of the lengthy pre-race pre-race show on speed, with Spencer and Wallace. They were hawking $55 back stretch seats. Great, $55 can see Daytona 500….What about the cost of everything else, travel, lodging, food. Kenny Wallace pulled money out of his wallet and said “I have $55”, see how easy and affordable it is to go to the 500. Heck, my wallet hasn’t seen $55 in a long time. Now 55 cents, I think I have that much money.

Saw where Denny Hamlin is buying tickets to each race and giving them away via his website. Wonder how many hits he’ll have after this weekend?

I guess Kyle Busch isn’t one of the drivers taking a pay cut to help with the cost of racing for his owner this year?!

Welcome back NA$CAR….only thing that I see has changed in 3 months are the different players in different cars with different sponsors.

Ed
02/09/2009 08:36 AM
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Just another restrictor plate race with a big wreck on the last lap. No real shootout.

toomuchcountry
02/09/2009 08:45 AM
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Wow. You scooped me on Daly Planet’s demise. Hadn’t read it in about a week & was equally shocked to see him gone. But minor correction. It was John Daly’s blog – not Mike Daly’s. Mike is still alive and well at monkeesfan.blogspot.com and Catchfence.com.

john
02/09/2009 08:48 AM
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The continued screwination (ya that’s a word) of Mark Martin is staggering. The Bud Shootout was yet another slap in his face—the only thing worse would’ve been if he was “allowed” in the field and finished SECOND again.

The BS officiating is bordering on the absurd. Harvick’s in the EXACT same situation as 2007, a wreck on the last lap, and this time NASCAR freezes the field on the yellow? Their hypocracy is STAGGERING.

Mark’s gonna win the 500 next on Sunday, you bet—and then the flagman will claim that aliens landed on the front stretch and held the 2nd-place car back, and give the win to them instead.

MJR
02/09/2009 09:37 AM
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I think someone got their O’s and I’s mixed up when they spelled “Shootout” this year. It was so full of crap it’s not funny. Oh, oh…. one of our poster boys is not racing…let’s make up a new rule…call it a “wildcard.” What a joke this has become!!!!

Next year why doesn’t NA$CAR just have a pre-race race to the Shootout ….. invite everyone who has a NA$CAR license, let them run a 50 laps, no holes barred, balls to the wall, wreck-em-up-bang-em up race. Then, what ever is left standing, have a Shootout race. Hell, that can’t be any more ridiculous than what they put on the track the other night.

Douglas
02/09/2009 09:50 AM
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WOW! Sounds like NA$CRAP has all it’s schills out there peddling tickets to the 500! (I.E. Kenny Wallace & Company). I used to kinda like Kenny, bit for sure he has fallen into the clutches of King Brian & Company!

It is REALLY GOOD, to see NA$CRAP begging for fans!

Bill B
02/09/2009 09:52 AM
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Glad to see you are back for another season Matt.

So what’s the double yellow line supposed to accomplish that the single yellow line couldn’t? I guess the transition from normal highway markings to the track markings were too hard for drivers to adjust.

Really bumbed about the Daly Planet closing. From the final posting it sounded like it was a cost issue that was brought on by the economy.

Janice
02/09/2009 10:03 AM
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Guess the double yellow lines are for those drivers with vision problems, or maybe the officials with vision problems.

Janice
02/09/2009 10:09 AM
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Oh Yeah….I got a call from a friend yesterday during qualifying. She called to see if I had killed the tv when apparently DW said “I love Mike Helton”.

I noticed that NA$CAR, or Speed, decided to pull Ken Squire out of storage for the historical value of the 500. What a pair, Squire and Dave Burns. Guess the hype this year will be the 30 yr anniversary since the national broadcast of the 500 and “the fight”.

Oh yeah, I got email from DEI a week or so ago trying to sell me a candle holder for rememberance candle for 2/18. I deleted that. No money for Teresa.

Anne
02/09/2009 11:20 AM
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I was shocked and saddened when John Daly closed his site last week. It was a must read for me. There must be more to this story. How ‘bout finding out “the rest of the story” and letting us know what happened.

Ren Jonsin - Webmaster
02/09/2009 11:39 AM
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Testing the comments, but since I’m here, Douglas and Janice, I don’t know if you were paying attention to Daytona ticket prices at the time, but they used to have the backstretch priced at $25 for I know the 400 because I took advantage of it at the time, and I think the 500 too. I believe it was arround ’98 or ’99 so inflation may have taken its toll. even then though, gas from Tampa to Daytona wasn’t cheap, but I could drive in and sleep in the car the night before, then drive home after, so it was a pretty good value.

Kevin
02/09/2009 12:23 PM
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Is it true that real reason for the change in the Bud Shootout format is that the pole award is now sponsored by Coors? If so, then shame on Bud and NASCAR. So because NASCAR wanted 2-official-beers-of-NASCAR, this once exciting event has been reduced to part demolotion derby / part free testing session.

Kevin in SoCal
02/09/2009 12:30 PM
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Leave it to Matt to turn what I thought was a good race into a stinkin’ pile of crap! Thanks Matt!

HankZ
02/09/2009 12:36 PM
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No mention of Dick Bergren’s purple nose? You’re slipping Matt. That thing looked like it was ripe for picking. Hehe! Disclaimer time – I like DB, just thought he needed more make-up….or less booze.

The racing? It was too long for a “shootout”.

marshall
02/09/2009 12:39 PM
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I bet there was some screaming in the control room when the camera man on the blimp showed a view straight down onto the frontstretch bleachers . NASCARs’ crafty idea of painting the seats contrasting colors to make it appear that the seats have people in them doesn’t work when filmed from above . I suspect NASCAR has already had the poor camera man fired for “ actions detrimental to stock car racing “ .
How i missed the FOX network . Mangeling of the English language , constant self promotion and self congratulations , one certain analyst throwing a behind the scenes tantrum when his compatriot accidentally dissed his record at Daytona . And of course the same analysts constant “ Hiiindrick iiiinjuns “ .

Bill B
02/09/2009 12:42 PM
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Good comeback Potsie!

Go back to school and get an education. Then perhaps you will be able to make a coherent point instead of basically calling anyone that doesn’t agree with you names. Otherwise go back to the playground where all discussions end in name calling.

Janice
02/09/2009 01:01 PM
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Ren, I’ve done many drive all night, get ticket and watch race over 25 yrs. Here at Atlanta they’re bringing out all the guns to sell tickets to the March race. Discounts for ride-a-long after race with Petty Driving Experience, ticket deals for $88 in the Earnhardt section but you know, still not worth taking the risk when the money spent, even as little as $55, could put food in the pantry or put gas in car for commute to work (thankfully!). The product from NA$CAR is still the same in my opinion. Ok, if you listen to the broadcasters, dodge has a new nose, maybe ford, and ford has a new engine coming, but it’s glorified iroc.

Now what will the format be for the next shootout or whatever they’ll call the race next year? Does it matter any longer, except for pit selection, to win pole? No extra points, no chance at extra money from special “pole winner” race.

Be interesting to see if there are more fans in the stands come Thursday for the Duels.

Douglas
02/09/2009 02:14 PM
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Hey Ren Jonsin, WOW! I thought I was the only one that “back-in-the-days” used to drive to the track, Daytona in this case (from Michigan yet), buy tickets, and sleep in the car until race/day/time!

All the way from Michigan
the excitement of Daytona would increase each and every mile driven!

Now I won’t even bother walking three steps into the living room and turn this silly thing called NA$CRAP on the TV! Not worth the electricity the TV takes for a couple of hours (time depending of course on how many debris cautions NA$CRAP needs to throw to keep everyone on the lead lap of course).

chase
02/09/2009 04:19 PM
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Matt – Welcome back and what a great column!!! I am so sad John Daly has shut down his blog — it was a daily read for me from the get go…as far as Sat. night was concerned – my interest level is not high this year — too much of a mess – I want the old days back and the REAL car – not this sham that Brian requires them to race…its a wonder Brian can even sleep at night – obviously, the man has no conscience whatsoever – boy, did the apple fall far from the tree with him! Hopefully, he’ll opt out before the Daytona 500 and put himself and us out of our misery…

Chris2
02/09/2009 10:22 PM
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While NASCAR is a rolling trainwreck at the moment Matt does get a little something extra in his check this week for mentioning the great band “Foghat”. After watching the ARCA race I think “Slowride” should’ve been the theme song with all the caution laps. Lonesome Dave and the gang would’ve been proud;-)

Marc
02/09/2009 10:23 PM
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Republicans, Democrats, its nice to see we are all in such a good mood. Everybody wants to cast blame. Lets look at facts and not personalities. I think we can all agree jobs create wealth. At least lack of jobs certainly destroy the wealth. The North American Free Trade Agreement allowed millions of job to be sent to Mexico, and then on to the Pacific Rim. We were promised that lower wage stitch and cut employment would be replaced with high waged, high tech employment, and that we were in for a very sound economy for many, many decades to come. After some serious modifications by the sitting President, it was signed into law on November 19, 1993. It allowed our jobs to be taken overseas, therefore we don’t have the jobs anymore. Matt, you are a flatulating butt-head if you think George W Bush created this problem. He may not have had the support or the popularity to do a whole lot to stop it, but he definitely did not create it. Aside from NAFTA, pure old GREED has a lot to do with the current problem. The banking problem was brought on by the government, but nobody twisted anybody’s arm to make them sign a mortgage they couldn’t afford. But when everybody tries to start getting bigger than their neighbor, and it goes unchecked, disaster is waiting.

Ren Jonsin - Webmaster
02/10/2009 12:42 PM
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I’ve deleted the political comments and name calling. Joe, I’m very conservative, as in both Bushes were too far left for my tastes, and your post makes us all look bad. If you want to defend the Bush administration in the future, I’d suggest you learn some valid arguments. There’s plenty of them out there, and calling someone names isn’t one of them.